Friday, April 29, 2011

merry go round - time management

On the last Friday of the month, I am going to be jumping on the 'Merry Go Round'. What is the Merry Go Round exactly? Each month, a group of artists and craftswomen from around the world join together and give their response to the same question/challenge.

I am usually what you would call an organized, self motivated person.  In high school, I always had my homework done on time, if not two days ahead of time.  In college, I never once pulled an all-nighter because it simply was never necessary.  And, in my career, I was able to work full time and start my own painting business on top of it.  

Yep, this list even got laminated
Realizing that that may have just sounded like bragging, I assure you that it's not.  This is absolutely how I was raised.  My family was orderly and timely.  We were ALWAYS on time (aka, 20 minutes early) everywhere we went.  So, it's only natural for me to schedule my own time similarly.

How do I stay on top of things?  I don't really know.  I guess I'm a list maker.  I have to-do lists, lists of potential painting ideas, lists of potential blog posts, lists of books to read, lists of guest bloggers, lists of expenses, and lists of income.  

But, to be honest, I think it has to do with how I fill my life.  You see, I almost never over commit or stretch myself too far.  In my life, I always made sure to study the right amount, work the right amount, socialize the right amount, sleep the right amount, and of course, sit in front of the tv and be lazy the right amount. 

I enjoy having a full schedule, but just full enough to be happy and well rounded.  For most people, they would laugh at this and say it was out of their hands.  And I guess for some people this is probably true...however, I have now lived 26 years on this earth and have never felt too overwhelmed with my own commitments.  So, maybe part of it is our own decisions.

Don't forget to check out the other artist bloggers on the merry go round!

Misty at Artmind
Mariana at Florcita
Laura at Blue Terracotta
Monika at Red2White
Ruth at Birdland Creations
Kim at Vilt a la Kim
Sara at Crafts of Texture
Samantha at Vintage is for lovers
Agathe at Le Bar du Vent

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Merry Go Round - My Inspiring Artist - A famous artist I love
Merry Go Round - Favorite Painting Tools - I share my top five favorite tools to paint with 
Sketch Book - Take Two - My "list" of painting ideas

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

written artwork - diary of a madman and other stories

I can vividly remember one day, sitting in my senior year English class in high school.  We were discussing the book we had been assigned to read, The Grapes of Wrath.  Of course, our teacher, Ms. Stewart, was the expert in the room so she was sharing some tidbits about what the author was "really saying" at certain points.  

While impressed at the teacher's analysis, I remember thinking, "How in the world were we supposed to figure that out on our own?"  With authors telling stories within stories, passing judgment between the lines, or secretly giving their opinion on every page, it can be difficult to figure out what they are saying. 

And it is this reason I wish I had read Diary of a Madman and Other Stories in my high school English class.  I feel like there are some really interesting things in there...but my simple mind just doesn't find them on it's own.  

I mean, really.  One of the stories included in this collection is called, The Nose.  And it's about a guy that wakes up one day and has lost his nose.  Or someone has stolen it.  And then he thinks he sees it on someone else.  Um...there has got to be something really interesting behind this story.  Right?  I hope so, or else it's just a bit odd.  

So, my this book.  It's odd and interesting.  Just do it with someone who knows something about literature and can fill you in on the mystery.

A list of what's to come, and what has already been explored.
My Written Artwork Journey Explained here
  1. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  2. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Emma - Jane Austen
  4. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  5. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Tennessee Williams
  6. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
  7. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
  9. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
  10. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
  11. Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell
  12. Death of a Salesman - Arthur Miller
  13. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
  14. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
  15. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
  16. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
  17. Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
  18. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  19. The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  20. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  21. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  22. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
  23. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  24. The sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
  25. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
  26. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
  27. Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  28. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  29. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  30. Crime and Punishment - Fedor Dostoyevsky
  31. Watership Down - Richard Adams
  32. Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak
  33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
  34. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
  35. Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
  36. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
  37. The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
  38. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  39. Tales - Edgar Allan Poe
  40. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories - Nikolai Gogol
  41. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  42. A Farewell To Arms - Ernest Hemingway
  43. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

Sunday, April 24, 2011

lets get real

In the past several weeks, I have written very little for this beautiful blog, and only have done art because I had to teach a scheduled art lesson.  While I despise blog posts essentially saying "I know I've been bad and haven't written in a long sorry!" I am going to talk about it.  Not for the sake of nothing better to say, but for a chance for us to discuss those horrible times of artistic and motivational ruts. 

My plan was to just forget about my rut (which has now lasted for around 3 weeks) and try diving back in.  I currently have 7 tabs open in my browser all to inspire great writing.  Lists of potential blog posts, posts already written to inspire, questions readers have asked, etc.  These are usually where I go when I am falling short. 

But for the past few weeks, my normal motivators have failed me.  I would go to write and found myself throwing in the towel without a sentence typed. 

Then it got really bad.  I started to question everything.  Why am I even writing this blog?  Who cares?  Is it just people reading my blog that want me to read their blog which ends in a vicious cycle of nobody really caring about any of it, but reading out of obligation?  I know...I was spiraling.

And today I'm feeling a little better, but honestly, I still don't have it all sorted out.  I think sometimes you need to give things time.  Sometimes you have to push through and just get 'er done.  And sometimes you need to call it quits.  I just have a hard time knowing what 'sometime' I'm in. 


Related Articles
Finding Motivation - Some steps I took earlier this year to stay motivated
Spousal Inspiration - The story behind a painting I completed
A Little Europe - Hard to imagine I'm dealing with motivation issues with all this around me

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

p[art]nership - create your own abstract art

Put your hands together for Sarah who has joined us for the p[art]nership series today!  Sarah is the author of the blog La Maison Boheme and has put together some really fun stuff for you all.  I'm so happy she shared with us.  The p[art]nership series is all about how art relates to interior design and fashion.

Hi there!  I'm Sarah from La Maison Boheme.  Thanks, Bethany, for asking that I guest post today about some DIY art ideas.  I guess the phrase "DIY Art" is kind of obvious.  Isn't all art Do It Yourself?  I sure hope so.  I guess I should say, "Even YOU can make your own abstract art!"

1)  Start with two colors.
I was inspired by THIS post at A Perfect Gray and decided to paint with black and white.  If this is your first time with abstract art, and you're looking to display your work in your home, stick to two colors.  This will increase your chances of creating a dynamic piece that will successfully suit your interior design concept.

2)  Think big.  Large scale art will translate better into your space and have some serious impact.  I love to work with square canvases because the shape is more unique than a rectangle.  For today's project, I picked up an 18x24 inch canvas at Big Lots for 7 dollars.  It was the biggest one they had. The can of spray paint was 2.93 at Home Depot and the bottles of black and white paint were in my son's art box.

I spray painted the canvas first.

Then I painted over the top - like so.

3) Don't over-think it.  Its art.  Its suppose to be fun and give pleasure.  Take a cue from my three-year old, Walker, and just go for it.  Let your mistakes become part of the painting.  Again, if you don't like the results, just start over.

My three year old son, Walker, added the white paint over top.

These are the two brushes Walker used.

4)  If you don't like it, start over.  No one will know that you tried seven or eight or forty times before you settled on a look that pleased you. Here is our final product!

5)  Get inspired.  Find art that you love and let it inspire your own work.  By trying out the techniques and styles of other artists, you'll find your own unique expression.  I promise!

You can see more of Walker's artwork of which profits go to the surgery of his baby brother.  You can visit the Etsy site, the Blog, or watch this video:

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p[art]nership - Party Decor - A table setting inspired by an iconic painting
p[art]nership - Creating Personal Art For Your Home - Make your artwork your own!
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

art lessons - perspective drawing, color...and ghandi

I have continued teaching private art lessons to a ten year old boy traveling around Europe with us.  I'm really having a blast going over these basic techniques and realizing how fun they are.  

In the first art lesson, we worked on shading basic objects with pencil.  In the next lesson, we incorporated a bit of color with the same objects.  We started with just one color at first, and then two.  

We also got to try our hand at perspective drawing, which is very technical, but the results are always amazing.  I remember being awed that a few simple rules can make 3D spaces look so real.  

And finally, we drew Ghandi.  Why?  Because we had about 20 minutes left in our session (of two hours) and my student turns to me and says, "I have to draw Ghandi for my homework, which is due tomorrow."  He informed me they've been studying India for the past few weeks.

If you know anything about my art skills, then you know the human form is not my specialty.  I have NEVER learned anything about figure drawing, and have only recently been trying my hand at abstract watercolors of human figures.  So...I was a little shell shocked and kept fumbling around before I made a game plan.  We looked up a few photos online of ol' Mr. Ghandi, and then started drawing.  It was comical, to say the least. 

This is my student's finished drawing, and to tell the truth, it's about as good as mine turned out!

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Art Lessons - See some shots from the first art lesson
Painting in Process - "Nude Torso" - A video of me painting a human form
Colorful Nudes on Black - A new technique of mine...watercolors on black paper

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

p[art]nership - party decor

We have a special contributor for the p[art]nership series today!  Kate Todd is the author of the blog Party Resources, where she shares all kinds of wonderful ideas for creating a smashing party.  She has kindly put together a design for a party based on a piece of artwork.  The p[art]nership series is all about how art relates to interior design and fashion.

Campbell's Soup Cans  was produced in 1962 by Andy Warhol. It consists of thirty-two canvases, each consisting of a painting of a can-one of each of the canned soup varieties The individual paintings were produced by a printmaking method. Campbell's Soup Cans' reliance on themes from popular culture helped to usher in pop art as a major art movement in the US. I wanted to incorporate the red and white colors in a table setting that would do Mr. Warhol Justice and feel like pop art. 

Alternating Pillows on the chairs with Andy Warhol's initials
Wine Glasses
Champagne Glass
Water Glass
A Bold Modern Centerpiece
White plates
Layered on top of the red and white for some pop
Lucite Napkin Rings
Place cards

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p[art]nership - Creating Personal Art For Your Home - Make your artwork your own!
p[art]nership - Riding Boots Displayed in Art - A great link of fashion and art
p[art]nership - Vintage Fashion Portrayed in Art - An amazingly thoughtful look at how artists create pieces including vintage fashion 

Monday, April 11, 2011

my last european home

For the past three weeks (maybe longer) I have been extremely out of touch with the world.  I first took a two week jaunt with some family across western Europe from Paris to Brussels to Amsterdam (and a few places in between).  That was very fun and very exhausting!  When I returned home to Nijmegen, I had exactly 48 hours to pack up all our belongings once again to prepare for our move to Italy.

A 16 hour van ride later....we arrived at our new home in Padova, Italy.  For the past week we have been running around like crazy to get settled in.  We bought some used bikes, procured cell phones, paid our rent, and are now ready to enjoy the sun!  Yesterday it was 82 degrees. 

I cannot wait to show you more of this beautiful city, but here are a few shots to tide you over :)

Beautiful cemetery sculpture across the street from our flat

Chapel at the cemetery, so vivid

The largest square in Europe, and Sant Guistina cathedral in the background

Galileo himself lived in Padova - this is an old astronomical observatory tower for him

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

statue art

When I was younger, I went through a big phase of making little things with FIMO clay.  It's the colorful clay you can bake in the oven to harden.  I would make little animals, beads for jewelry, and....well, mostly animals.  And that is pretty much where my sculpting skills stopped. 

Sculptures, especially those made of stone, are incredibly impressive to me.  I am unendingly curious how people can look at a huge slab of stone and know where to even begin making it into a form.  And then, when I think about people doing this hundreds of years ago with primitive tools, I have to sit down.  It blows my mind. 

We have come across some beautiful statue work here in Europe to continue the mind boggling.  Here's a taste.

Outside the cathedral in Antwerp, Belgium

My friend and I on a sculpture in Paris

Sculpture in Paris

HUGE statue of Mary and Child at an abbey in Leuven, Belgium

Primitive statue in Damme, Belgium

In a Brussels church (look at the lace detail!)

Outside a governmental building in Brussels

Near the Louvre in Paris (Fabric impresses me more than anything)

Statues in Brussels (wish you could see more detail, they are awesome)

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

painting in process - paint between the lines

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I have dorky little painting projects that are just for fun and to get my creative juices flowing.  That's what this little ditty was for.  One day, several weeks ago, I started playing around with gluing sewing thread to paper.  It's the day that I put together this map

Before I put the lines on the map, I threw together the little piece below with thread.  Then a bit ago I decided to color in the lines.  Again, just for fun.  It took a surprisingly long time, as you will see by how fast I sped up the video.  I don't know why, but my "fun" projects often end up taking more time than some of my more professional pieces. 

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

music & creativity: the importance of listening in art

Maria Rainier is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she writes about education, online schools, and the future of online degrees. Before turning to writing she studied English and music at Elon University, developing interests in professional writing, rhetoric, poetry, and classical piano performance. In her spare time she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and trying to avoid her laptop.

Painted by artists Tatiana and Rob while listening to Beck
If your career involves any amount of creativity, no matter how small, music can help you express yourself even when you can’t seem to find your muse. Breaking into a creative state of mind is especially important to visual artists, creative writers, choreographers, and even fashion designers. As a creative writer, the thing I appreciate most about music is its ability to help me believe that I always have something to say. My creativity doesn’t go away when I’m not feeling creative; it’s always there, and music helps me to access it when I can’t find it any other way.

To benefit from the inspirational qualities of music in your own creative pursuits, try some of these tips
for expressing yourself as you interpret life through the lens of music.

Music & Memories

My favorite music often reminds me of previous times when I’ve listened to the same songs and pieces. There’s something about good memories that puts me into a creative state – I can filter my thoughts according to a single memory, making associations and finding phrases to describe it just the way it feels in that moment. Recalling the past can unlock emotions that inspire creativity, and music is the one thing in my life that can always provide me with a memory, some way to connect with the rest of humanity. And for me, feeling connected is when I’m able to do my best work. It’s as if I know that other people will automatically understand what I’m expressing because music brings it out in everyone.

To bring out memories, I usually listen to folk music. Some of my favorite folk artists include She & Him, Iron & Wine, Amelia Curran, and Neilson Hubbard. The song I turn to when all else fails is “Passing Afternoon” by Iron & Wine, which is the most beautiful and nostalgic song I’ve ever heard. It never fails to inspire me with a memory.

Music & Mood

Whenever I hear music, I can feel my mood being affected. And since I love music, listening to it inspires me with positive feelings that can be channeled into art. However, there are some types of music that evoke specific moods and feelings for me. If I’m trying to achieve a certain mood, I turn to classical music and opera to steer me in the right direction. Often, it’s the absence of lyrics that helps me turn my attention inward to find the creative impulse that’s triggered by evocative music.

I find Beethoven’s piano sonatas, especially the later ones, to be full of a variety of emotions that can
inspire me to express something that surfaces when I listen to them. The most powerful piece of music I’ve found for evoking emotion and mood is Nessun Dorma, a famous aria from Puccini’s Turandot, as performed by the masterful Pavarotti. I find deep sadness, love, and victory in it, a potent combination that can inspire me to create something truly expressive.

Music & Messages

Listening to music that conveys a message that’s important to me can help me find inspiration. In this
mind. Combining the power of words and music helps me find my creativity and use it to express myself. I listen to songs with lyrics that speak to me on a personal level or bring strong visual images to even more accurately and uniquely.

For verbal images, I listen to Iron & Wine’s “Walking Far from Home” on their newest album, Kiss Each Other Clean. This song is a series of short but potent images that remind me how poetry can be found in everyday life. Any song with evocative lyrics helps me discern messages in music that can help me feel more creative in my everyday efforts to produce art.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

art lessons

Big things are happening with Dirksen Dabbles...well, I don't know if I can really call it Dirksen Dabbles, but it is dealing with me and art.  I am officially an art instructor.  I have been asked to teach private art lessons to a ten year old boy that is traveling throughout Europe with us.  His mother is going to school with my husband and he just loves art.  So, once or twice a week we are meeting and learning!

I have to say, when I was approached about this possibility, I was very nervous.  If you remember my background, I have only had two classes in my life where I was formally taught art lessons.  Having a lot of good experiences with learning from a teacher makes it easier to know where to start when being a teacher yourself.  

I started with a trip to the art store and got the basic

So, I remembered some of the very first lessons I had in my very first art class.  And that was shading objects to make them look 3D.  So my student and I got some paper and a pencil, I pulled together a few objects for us to look at, a good light to shine on the objects, and we shaded away!

My drawings for instruction
Learning to make the dark parts extra dark
He works very  hard to make it look perfect, often erasing parts and redoing
One of our objects, to show the shadow on a sphere
Our finished products.  Didn't he do great?!

I have lots of experience working with kids, but have never taught art lessons before.  I thoroughly enjoyed this lesson and am quite excited for the many more to come.  After we get some of the basics of drawing down, we will get to move onto more exciting things like painting! 

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Drawing Glass - Usually the only person I get to teach is myself, which is much more difficult
Pencil Drawing of Animals - This is what I learned in my first art class
And The Not So Good - When learning new things, sometimes it doesn't turn out well!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

continual creativity

A short while ago a friend emailed me a link to this discussion from Radiolab.  She thought of me with this story because it focuses on creativity.

The hosts of this show talk to a few people that are creative professionals.  Writers were their main focus, but the rules apply to all forms of art such as music, painting, dancing...anything really.  The discussion brings us to the unending question of how do we continually nurture creativity, even when we are not 'feeling it.'

One author threatens himself with bad consequences if he does not write, once even resorting to telling himself he would have to commit suicide if he did not complete a book within ten days.  A bit extreme, but a striking example nonetheless. 

Then they talk to the author of the best selling book Eat Pray Love, who works with creativity as if it is another entity.  She talks to creativity, asks creativity questions, and tries to make creativity happy so it will stay around longer. 

I thought the discussion was very interesting.  If you would like to listen, go here, or hit play below.  There are really three segments to this episode, the second being the part on creativity, which starts at around minute 24:42 and ends at 39:10. 

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Does Sleep Aid Creativity - My thoughts on this vital component of life
Art For...Fun? - Keeping the fun in art
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